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Village says no to wind farms

FRANKLIN GROVE – Franklin Grove on Monday followed in the footsteps of the village down the road – banning industrial wind turbines within 1.5 miles of its boundaries.

The Franklin Grove board voted 4-3 in favor of the ban, with Mayor Bob Logan breaking the tie.

In November, the village of Ashton, 6 miles to the east, took a similar action against turbines. The Ashton board also voted 4-3; Mayor John Martinez broke the tie.

Both towns were called to action after RES Americas, a Colorado-based subsidiary of British energy conglomerate RES Group, revealed plans for a wind farm in the Franklin Grove and Ashton areas.

The company hasn’t yet submitted an application to the Lee County government.

In July, Franklin Grove held a referendum – or a public opinion poll, as the village called it – on whether to ban turbines inside the village and in the 1.5-mile surrounding area. Voters in the affected areas took part in what was believed to be the first such referendum in Illinois.

Seventy-five percent of voters backed the ban.

During Monday’s meeting, three Franklin Grove board members – Scott Spangler, Tony Schaneberg and Ed Uphoff – sought changes to the language in the proposed ban.

Schaneberg wanted to delay consideration until the board’s meeting next month, “so we have more time to look at it.”

But a council majority rejected that idea.

Spangler proposed the board eliminate the part of the ban that stated the village would “support the development of safe, reliable, financially viable and environment-friendly commercial and industrial development, including traditional and renewable energy sources that contribute to the overall goals of our community.”

“I don’t think that’s a statement we can stand up to,” Spangler said. “What is safe, reliable energy? I think those are goals that can’t be reached.”

He said he didn’t object to height restrictions for smaller non-industrial turbines, which would be allowed. But he questioned why the village would include in the ban’s language a limit on kilowatt power. He argued that technology could change and allow for smaller turbines that would produce much more power.

The mayor countered that the village could amend the ban later to change the allowable kilowatt power. He added that the language on the kilowatts was exactly what was presented to voters.

Spangler wouldn’t have it.

“Technology is changing every day. Wake up,” he told his colleagues.

A majority of the council voted against Spangler’s proposed changes

Then the council voted for the ban as is. Chad Murphy, David Atkinson and Keith Roop supported it, while Schaneberg, Spangler and Uphoff dissented. Logan cast the deciding vote.

The ordinance takes effect immediately.

Under Illinois law, towns have the power to ban turbines in their surrounding 1.5-mile areas, as long as they have zoning ordinances, which Franklin Grove does.